“The Enemies Made this Possible”: Sino-North Korean Relations after 1948

Adrian Buzo will be publishing a large Routledge Handbook on North Korea  (which I believe is slated to be published in 2021) and asked me to contribute a chapter. I asked my PhD student Yujin Lim to co-author this piece and fortunately she agreed, since she has been working in North Korean materials available in Seoul and recently published an impressive article on the geometry … Continue reading “The Enemies Made this Possible”: Sino-North Korean Relations after 1948

More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

  Today the NK News website published a 1600-word essay I wrote in response to Robert Collins’ extensive new report on the Organization and Guidance Department of the Korean Workers’ Party. A short series of extracts follows: More than ever since January 2017, ‘North Korea watchers’ have been wrestling with a dilemma typical for analysing autocracies: Does one take a personalist interpretation of the DPRK’s diplomacy and … Continue reading More to Life than Kim Jong-un: Reflections on Robert Collins’ Report on the Organization and Guidance Department

North Koreans Watching Fox

This post operates on sanity-preserving ground rules: No referring to: think-pieces, think-tank analyses, journalistic hot takes, outraged or absurd Tweets (other than those thumbed out by POTUS), Chuck Schumer’s courageous stand against a commemorative coin, or speculation about what this consistently incoherent White House intends to do. Do not engage with the orgy of clickbait flowing out of the inexplicable leak from the Pompeo/Andrew Kim … Continue reading North Koreans Watching Fox

On the Perils of Journalistic Moonlighting for Academics

The inter-Korean summit which occurred on 27 April coincided with a rare trench of open time and full energy for me, so I was able to write three pieces in response. None of these is full of blistering insights per se, but perhaps by discussing their production in aggregate I can convey something useful about the way the world of journalistic commentary works for academics, … Continue reading On the Perils of Journalistic Moonlighting for Academics

Thunderclouds Over the Honeymoon: Xi, Kim, and the Trump Summit

Amid the welter of diplomatic moves that have occurred in and around the Korean peninsula in 2018, the two meetings in quick succession between the North Korean leader and China’s eternally-consolidating leader, Xi Jinping, have been one of the more curious elements. After a six-year hiatus from meeting foreign leaders at all, Kim’s mode of turning so suddenly back to China was indeed extraordinary. The … Continue reading Thunderclouds Over the Honeymoon: Xi, Kim, and the Trump Summit

On Red Lines and Reunification: Recent Remarks by the CIA Director on North Korea (updated)

[UPDATED on 5 February 2018:] Donald Trump surely makes the North Korean state nervous. But when CIA Director Mike Pompeo actually emerges from his operations bunker in Virginia, he tends to speaks about twice as fast as the President, and probably gives analysts in Pyongyang twice the reason to pause. A North Korean editorial on 27 January provided a rejoinder to a couple of new … Continue reading On Red Lines and Reunification: Recent Remarks by the CIA Director on North Korea (updated)

Coupling and De-coupling the North Korean Missile Program from the Kim Jong-un Reformer Narrative

An essay earlier this year by Fyodor Tertitsky, and a recent NewsHour interview with missile specialist Jeffrey Lewis, got me thinking about the nature of the relationship between reform and science/technological advancement in North Korea. Journalist Judy Woodruff concluded her interview with Lewis by almost incredulously asking, “Does North Korea have its own super smart scientists, or do they steal this technology from abroad?” This … Continue reading Coupling and De-coupling the North Korean Missile Program from the Kim Jong-un Reformer Narrative

Right of Reply: Kim Jong-un’s Rejoinder to American Threats at the UN General Assembly

I imagine that most people did not expect Kim Jong-un to make a direct statement to President Trump — I certainly didn’t. But the North Korean leader has done so, adding yet another layer of surprise to an evolving confrontation with the Trump administration, and showing that in spite of living within layer after layer of carefully cultivated legacy politics, he is capable of learning … Continue reading Right of Reply: Kim Jong-un’s Rejoinder to American Threats at the UN General Assembly

Joshua’s Map: Beijing’s Coverage of North Korean Defector Issues and Human Rights

In January/February 2015, the Huanqiu Shibao (the foreign affairs tabloid under Beijing People’s Daily, massive readership etc.) used one of Joshua Stanton’s maps to indicate the locations of North Korea’s largest gulags. Given the combination of Stanton’s personal hostility toward the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing’s own reluctance to throw North Korean human rights up to public introspection, I found this method rather surprising. Yet more … Continue reading Joshua’s Map: Beijing’s Coverage of North Korean Defector Issues and Human Rights